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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The sendoff is strong. The connection to the mission is even stronger.

For 21 days, four men from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office will be in Puerto Rico helping with disaster relief.

Inspector Michael Bastone, Sergeant Joshua Perez, and Deputy Sheriff Officers Alessandro Carrasquillo and Enrique Marin each have ties to Puerto Rico.

“Words cannot explain the devastation,” Bastone said.

From Philadelphia, they watched helplessly as Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and have still been unable to reach some family members there.

After seeing that footage, Bastone, the office’s highest ranking Hispanic deputy, went directly to Sheriff Jewell Williams, who immediately gave the green light to send a team.

“These deputies’ input can save a life,” Williams said, “and that’s what this is about.”

With no place to stay and essential services like water and electricity scarce at best, Bastone says they have no idea what to expect.

“It’s definitely going to be a hardship for all of us,” he said. “It’s something we’ve never experienced. But we’re going out there and we’re going to do the best we can for our people.”

All four men have commercial driver’s licenses and were told they will be running essential supplies to hard hit, hard to reach locations.

“There will be days without bathing. There will be days without eating. We need to prepare with protein bars, with enough under clothes for the whole 21 days we’ll be out there deployed,” Bastone said. “And all this packing has to be in one bag, so you can only imagine how much we’re trying to get out there to survive.”

The group leaves on Sunday. Sergeant Joshua Perez is also making the trip to the city of Rio Piedras.

“It’s almost to the point where you have to question yourself whether or not you’re going into a safe environment, into a safe condition. But you have to look at the bigger picture. There are people who need our help. These are our people, these are American citizens that need us,” Perez said. “Medical supplies are very scarce. A lot of the barrios and a lot of the areas aren’t receiving the aid that they need.”

And though they’ll leave comfort behind, they hope to bring much healing and hope.

“Three weeks later we get to come home. But they still have to live there and deal with all of the devastation of the hurricane,” Perez said. “For me, it’s very heartfelt. I can’t even put into words how I feel. I just feel like it’s meant to be and I feel obligated to help my people as much as possible.”

Deputies Alessandro Carrasquillo and Enrique Marin are also making the trip.

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2017/10/14/4-philly-sheriffs-deputies-heading-to-puerto-rico-for-hurricane-relief-effort

There probably is no perfect scenario when a property is listed, by court
order, for a Sheriff Sale. Most often it means a family may be losing their
home for a variety of reasons, often because of illness, job loss or other
situations that may be out of their control.

One benefit to Philadelphia residents is that the majority of new buyers that
purchase property at Sheriff Sales pay real estate taxes and keep them
current according to a sample review undertaken by the Philadelphia
Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Jewell Williams sought to determine the degree that properties
subjected to Sheriff Sale by order of the First Judicial District become and
remain tax compliant. The Sheriff’s Office reviewed the tax status of all
properties sold at the mortgage foreclosure, tax delinquent, and tax lien
sales for the months of November 2016 and November 2015.
City records indicate that 344 or 73% of the 469 properties sold in
November 2016 were current on their city 2017 real estate property tax.
That is a significant boost to the city revenue stream.

Tax records indicate that only 316 of the 471 properties sold in November
2015 were compliant in paying real estate taxes for 2016 and 2017. From
that small sampling we are able to see that 660 properties returned to
being tax compliant and current after years of dereliction of obligation to the
city and the school district.

In addition to recovering private and public debts, the purpose of the Sheriff
Sale is to return tax delinquent properties to the tax rolls. Because tax
delinquent properties receive city services such as police and fire
protection and trash pickup they are a burden to the City and often a blight
to its neighborhood.

In Pennsylvania the Sheriff Sales are the last step in the process to collect
delinquent debts including taxes and utility fees. Properties are brought to
Sheriff Sale through the courts requested by lenders and taxing authorities
who are owed money. If the owner does not make arrangements to satisfy
the debt, the property is sold at a court ordered public auction handled by
the Sheriff. The purchaser is expected to pay real estate and other city and
county obligations going forward and must be tax compliant with the city for
one year prior to the purchase.

The goal of this analysis was to get a sense of how many properties sold
through a Philadelphia Sheriff sale returned to fulfilling tax obligations.

July 18, Philadelphia, PA -- In the last twelve months The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office collected and sent to the Philadelphia City Treasury $61.3 million in delinquent taxes and fees collected from Sheriff Sales. In fiscal year 2012, the year Sheriff Jewell Williams entered office, only $27 million had been collected.

This is the third year in a row the Sheriff remitted over $60 million to the City of Philadelphia. The money is collected through monthly mortgage foreclosure sales, tax delinquent and tax lien sales as well as fees imposed for various court related services. Properties are brought to Sheriff Sales through court orders initiated by the City Revenue and Law Departments or by banks and private lenders.
“For many years, delinquent tax collection had been a problem. Often the properties we sell are delinquent for five or more years. We expect to see the backlog of tax delinquent properties decline,” Williams stated.

Under Williams, the Office redesigned the delinquent collection process and installed a data management system. At the request of the City, two additional monthly sales were added to the schedule during the last fiscal year.

The primary mission of the Office of the Sheriff is to protect those working in our Courts and others such as witnesses, jurors and to transport and guard prisoners going to and from Court and to carry out court orders.

The Sheriff now provides the City Treasury almost three times what it costs to operate the office. For fiscal year 2018, which started in July, the Sheriff’s budget is $23 million.

34 hardened criminals arrested

Philadelphia, July 3 - The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office arrested 34 men and women wanted on serious offenses, including a man with three violations of probation – one for Murder, in a city-wide raid in the early hours of July 1.

“We took many violent offenders off the streets of Philadelphia during this surprise search for wanted criminals,” said Jewell Williams, Sheriff of the City and County of Philadelphia. “Many of those captured had several outstanding warrants against them on charges that ranged from murder, failure to pay child support – one who owed in excess of $85,000, assault, endangering the welfare of a minor, witness intimidations and unlawful contact with a minor.” Officers from the Philadelphia Police Department assisted in this team sweep.

It is the job of the men and women of this Office to protect all members of the community and visitors to the city and quell future violence. “As a parent I’m especially concerned with the families that suffer when one or more members of a household are cited for domestic abuse creating a violent and hostile environment,” said Williams. “I say to all; hold your tempers, lay down your arms, and protect your loved ones for a summer of peace.”

Return millions in excess funds to property owners

Philadelphia, April 19, 2017—Testifying at City Council budget hearings, Sheriff Jewell Williams described the millions of dollars in new revenues generated by the monthly Sheriff sales. The vigorous collection of delinquent real estate taxes through auction has resulted in an additional $60 million dollars per year in taxes and fees that is now forwarded to the City’s general fund.

“In my first year in office, Sheriff Sales collected $27 million in delinquent taxes and fees”, said Sheriff Williams. “From three sales a month in 2012, we now conduct six monthly sales, including a Land Bank Sale; and there is evidence that the backlog of delinquent cases is at last shrinking. While we still process more than 27,000 properties a year, the backlog of delinquencies and the amounts collected are getting smaller. “

Of the 27,000 properties processed each year, approximately 7,000 go to a final sale and processing properties is a vastly improved operation. When the Sheriff took office in 2012, it required up to 120 days after settlement for a property to be returned to productive use. Last year, the time between a property’s sale and the issuance of a new deed was reduced to 15 days.

The office has also dedicated resources to finding people who are owed excess funds from the sale of their property. After a property is sold, settled and all liabilities and debts have been paid and recorded, the owner of record at the time the court ordered the sale (“defendant”) may recover any excess balance remaining on the account through the Sheriff’s Defendant Asset Recovery Team also known as DART.

Historically, only a fraction of these excess funds were returned to the previous property owners. Sheriff Jewell Williams made it a priority when he took office in 2012 to search out those owed money by increasing the efforts of the DART unit. Under his leadership, the unit has been more aggressive in validating which defendants are eligible to receive payment and connecting with those individuals to put a check in their hands.

Last year, DART located 140 people and returned $2.2 million in excess funds to them. Since 2012, nearly $11 million has been returned to more than 400 people. If property has been sold at Sheriff Sale within the past 18 months, former owners can file a claim with the DART unit on the Sheriff’s website.

After 18 months, any funds that cannot be returned to the owner of record is forwarded (escheated) to the state as unclaimed funds. In six (6) years, $50 million has been escheated to the state. Owners can apply for this money through the Pennsylvania Treasury Department’s unclaimed funds process. Last year, the Sheriff’s office escheated $7,775,416 to the state in unclaimed funds.

The Sheriff’s office has also continued its robust efforts to educate the public on services it provides through workshops, seminars, and events all across the city.

Other Highlights of the Sheriff’s testimony to Council include:

• Training of new Deputies for the warrant service unit
• Security operations for the City’s Probation and Parole office
• Secure pouches to eliminate cell phone use in courtrooms
• Enhanced security for City Hall
• Gunlock giveaway-2800 free gunlocks have been made available to citizens on request

About the Sheriff’s Office
The Philadelphia Sheriff's Office is committed to serve and protect the lives, property and rights of all people within a framework of high ethical standards and professional conduct at all times. We are committed to excellence in public safety and professional services, and ensuring that those services are always satisfactory and of the highest quality possible.

Philadelphia, PA--Harold and Barbara Shapiro were the recent recipients of a check personally handed to them by Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams in recognition of the historic mark of returning over $10 million during his administration to individuals whose homes sold at a sheriff’s sale for more than the taxes owed.

“This ($10 million mark) reflects the hard work and dedication this office, and specifically the Defendant Asset Recovery Team (D.A.R.T), has put into ensuring that any excess funds generated from a sale is returned as quickly as possible,” said Sheriff Williams.

The Shapiro’s, lifelong residents of Philadelphia before moving recently to Croydon, Pennsylvania, said the money would be used to pay a few bills, then shared with family members.

“There are a couple of things we need to take care of,” said Barbara Shapiro, “then we will share the rest with family.” Also, she said, she will soon be losing her job because of downsizing and the money couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We take every opportunity to educate people on how to claim money they may be owed, and, to the best of our abilities, make sure they know they can file the proper paperwork for a claim by themselves,” said Sheriff Williams. “A middle person, who can legally charge as much as 15-percent of the amount recovered, is really not necessary. They can keep it all.”

For more information on how to apply for excess money you think may be owed from the sale of a property, you can reach the sheriff’s D.A.R.T. Unit at 215-686-3532.

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke and Sheriff Jewell Williams will appear together Sunday morning, September 25th at 11:30 a.m. on NBC 10 @ issue, a weekly news show that immediately follows "Meet The Press".  The two will discuss their joint "Got a Gun.  Get a Lock!" campaign that seeks to reduce incidents of accidental shootings, especially among children, by securing guns with gun locks given away free of charge, no questions asked.

PHILADELPHIA, PA---The office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County is urging individuals in the city AND surrounding counties to be aware of people trying to extort money by claiming they represent the sheriff’s office and/or the court, or Jury Commission Office.

“We are also supporting efforts by Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the First Judicial District in getting the word out about these scam artists and the despicable ways they are preying on innocent people,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.

“I need to make it absolutely clear,” said Sheriff Williams, “we NEVER call ANYONE about a debt.  We SERVE a court-executed warrant”.

Among those who have been victimized are a number of constituents in Councilman Jones’ 4th District who have complained of people calling and threatening them with arrest and/or a heavy fine because they have either failed to appear for Jury Duty, or have not paid a specific debt, usually from a “quick loan” organization or a credit card debt.

Examples of the methodology used by the scammers include:

A 67-year-old woman being told she needed to pay a fine because she failed to respond to a jury notice.  The man said his name was Mike Sapp and represented the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia.  After the woman informed him she was going to call both the police and the court, he hung up.

  • A man being told there was a “warrant out for his arrest for theft by deception” because he failed to pay money owed on a credit card.  The female caller said she also represented the sheriff’s office and he could either turn himself in or call a certain number to pay the debt.   The caller even said it was okay to use a PayPal Account.  Unfortunately, the man wound up paying $300 to an organization called United Financial Resource.
  • Another woman was told she had to pay a fine because she missed grand jury duty and there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest.  The man who called her identified himself as Deputy Sheriff Strong.  The woman was literally on her way to pay the fine, but contacted Councilman Jones’ office first, which intervened and uncovered the scam.  Also, no such “Deputy Sheriff Strong” works at the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County.

“As the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, I am deeply concerned about this scam especially since it seems like they are targeting constituents in the 4th District,” said Jones. “I urge anybody contacted by these scammers to contact the proper authorities immediately."

Richard T. McSorley, Deputy Court Administrator, Criminal Trial Division for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, has issued the following:  “A jury summons is an official court order requiring jury duty. Failure to respond to your jury notice can result in legal consequences including contempt. However, no fines, costs or warrants of arrest are ever issued without notice of a court hearing that would be held in the Stout Center for Criminal Justice at 1301 Filbert street. No phone calls are ever made to those who fail to appear for jury duty”.

If you suspect you are being scammed or are suspicious of anyone claiming to be from the sheriff’s office or the court, please call any of the following numbers for verification and/or clarity:

  • Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County: 215-686-3530
  • Jury Commission Office: 215-683-7190.
  • District Attorney’s Office: 215-686-9900 

PHILADELPHIA, PA--Members of the Sheriff of Philadelphia’s Fugitive Warrant Unit last night apprehended an individual wanted by the FBI in connection with a string of recent bank robberies in Philadelphia. 

The suspect, Richard Cooper, was taken into custody by the warrant unit around 7:15 p.m. Sunday night in an alley on the 2200 Block of E. Cambria Street.

Cooper, who was not the original target of the warrant unit, was also under house arrest before he took off recently and was being sought by the warrant unit for being an absconder on rape charges.

According to Staff Inspector Jennifer Algarin, one of the individuals involved in the apprehension, and Captain Vernon Muse, head of the warrant unit, while enroute to a two-story row home on the block to serve a warrant on an individual charged with intent to deliver drugs, the unit, which consisted of five individuals, were tipped off by an informant that Cooper was in the same house.

Further investigation revealed Cooper was also being sought in connection with no less than two bank robberies at gunpoint. Amid concerns he may have been armed with a high powered weapon, the unit also called in the Philadelphia Police Stakeout unit and other uniformed Philadelphia Police officers for backup.

As the warrant unit approached the front of the house, Cooper fled out the back door and into an alley where he was apprehended without a struggle by members of the warrant unit already covering the rear.

Cooper was taken by the warrant unit to the Curran Fromhold Correction Facility on State Road.

“We never know what we are going to face when we go out looking for fugitives,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.  “The fact this dangerous individual was captured without a struggle and no one was hurt is a plus for us, and a testimony to good training, but more importantly, it means that one less dangerous individual is no longer on the streets.”

For more information contact Joseph Blake, Communications Officer, at 215-495-4174.

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